"Should we go there?" my eight-year-old son asked me last night as we sat and watched CNN as a family.
No, I explained, we shouldn't--we'd only be in the way.
But I know how he feels. Watching the epic destruction unfold leaves me sitting with a shaking head and a heavy heart, wondering what on earth I can possibly do. Hand-wringing won't help, of course; there is always a course of action, even when the path seems overwhelming.
:: Give. There are people on the ground with access to the tools to help--give to these organizations generously, until you feel the pinch yourself. If you've never been a giver before, let this be a wake-up call and a chance to stretch that part of your heart, and see how your life is changed when you sacrifice for someone else. Compassion has had a strong presence in Haiti for a very long time, and--praise God--their office still stands. You can be sure that your gift will be stretched and used to its very last drop. Here's a great explanation (directly from the Compassion folks) about why their model for disaster relief is so effective:
In this disaster it is crucial that first responders receive support quickly. Because Compassion International ministers through local churches to meet the needs of that church's neighbors, and because these church partners are respected aid workers in their communities, Compassion is uniquely positioned to assess and meet the needs of its sponsored children quickly. This is an advantage of our church-based model in practice for more than 50 years.
:: Talk to your kids. Don't hide tragedy from them. Their world, unfortunately, is a scary place sometimes. Poverty and disaster should be jarring, and seeing it will help them grow into people who want to make things better. Pray together. Brainstorm as a family about things you can give up together to give more generously. Let them feel the pinch, too.
:: Live with intentional thankfulness. When I came home from Africa, I struggled with guilt--why am I comfortable when so many others aren't? I understand a little better now that I can channel those emotions into thankfulness, and I can teach it to my kids. I don't know why my kids are safe and my house is standing and our water is clean. But I will be thankful, and I will take opportunities like this one to re-tune my heart. So many of the things that occupy our minds are fleeting and unimportant. Let Haiti awaken us to a perspective that is laser-focused on what really matters.